Foreign Policy Blogs

Japan reflects on society post-disaster

In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left 13,392 dead and 15,133 missing (most of whom are assumed to have been washed out to sea), and the subsequent nuclear crisis at Fukushima, the Japanese are making a long-overdue assessment of their society.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Wednesday that former government officials taking senior posts at Tokyo Electric Power Co. is “socially unacceptable.”

In Japan it is common practice for government officials to take high-paying posts related to their former official duties at companies in the private sector. This practice is known as “amakudari,” literally “descent from heaven.” As Edano pointed out, this is an unethical practice which leads to blatant conflicts of interest.

Toru Ishida, a former head of the the government’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which plays a pivotal role in formulating nuclear policies in Japan, became a senior adviser to TEPCO in January.

Edano said, “Regardless of whether his case is amakudari from a legal standpoint, I believe it should not be accepted socially.”

The Japanese have paid dearly for the conflicts of interest amakudari posts create in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Edano said the government will do all it can to block officials from taking jobs at TEPCO or other power companies in the future.

Meanwhile Sony Corp. plans to adopt daylight-saving time to cut power consumption. Japan implemented daylight-saving time briefly after the war, but it hasn’t been used nationwide in 60 years. In Japan’s duty-based work culture, leaving work before dusk is considered to be almost immoral. With daylight lasting until 9 p.m. or so in the summer with daylight-saving time, Japanese workers would be chained to their desks until 10 p.m.

I am interested to see if Sony’s work culture will adapt to daylight-saving time, and if other companies will follow suit.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]